Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
MONDAY 30 OCTOBER 2000
TEBBIT, CMG, AIR
100. We do not dispute that. One might have
an inquiry into why 52,000 were in sub-standard accommodation
but that is not for today. What concerns me is that Annington
seem to have got a stock that was inherited in very poor condition,
I am sure for lack of investment over a decade and perhaps more,
but that the bill for up-grading it was not borne by Annington
but by the MoD.
(Mr Tebbit) That was in the terms of the agreement
and that was understood and known at the time.
101. Yes, but the numbers were not, that is
the thing. Annington knew
(Mr Tebbit) They did their study and we did ours.
We were aware of what we were doing as well.
102. But it suited them in their study to say,
"We want these at minimal cost and actually we want you to
think they are a reasonable level", and then to build in
as they appear to have built in to the purchase that you should
then up-grade them, and up-grade far more than were assessed as
requiring the sort of up-grade.
(Mr Tebbit) We were up-grading the houses in order
to accommodate Service families decently and well as part of our
morale and retention programme. We are not up-grading them in
the context of releasing them to Annington. Dilapidations we pay
are not the same as up-grading, I think there is a distinction.
103. Annington throughout are getting better
quality property which is theirs because they effectively own
it; they have a 999 year lease.
(Mr Tebbit) We are trying to focus the up-grade programme
on what we know to be core stock which we are going to require
for the long term. We are not focusing the up-grade programme
on stock we are about to release to Annington. That would be foolish.
104. You said earlier that because the report
is a year old, the recommendations have largely been incorporated.
(Mr Tebbit) Yes, a lot of the key recommendations,
105. What has been the most effective and least
(Mr Tebbit) Before I ask Mr Wilson to comment on that,
I would regard the most effective as being the way we now build
up our requirements for long-term retention and for disposals
area by area, rather than with a general target, so that the targets
we are now building for disposal and core management, as it were,
are much more sophisticated based on discussions with the military
commanders, the sort of surrogate customers if you will for all
this housing, as well as relying on information from the individuals.
106. So what incentive have you brought in for
the local area commanders to release accommodation? I notice the
report in 5.5, page 52, is very critical. There are certainly
no financial incentives.
(Mr Tebbit) There are no financial incentives, the
incentives are much more proactive management by DHE which has
regular meetings now with the military authorities. There are
formal quarterly meetings, there is a financial element now being
built into this so that although they do not hold the budget there
will be clear transparency of the opportunity cost financially
of hanging on to property that is not required. There a general
culture now within the Ministry of Defenceperhaps I am
getting whimsicalbut now we have a budget which is growing
in real terms, it is very clear to everybody, and these are top-level
budget holders in each of the commands, that any resources we
can save through more efficient management are converted into
the front line and not into unnecessary overheads. There are incentives
in that area.
107. To return to my original question, what
are you most disappointed in in terms of making progress on?
(Mr Tebbit) I am most disappointed. From my point
of view, the biggest problem is the decline in demand, which is
falling so sharply. Therefore, although we are making tremendous
progress in disposing of property and identifying the core, it
does not look that good because, as it were, the Executive is
going, to some extent, against that tide of reduced demand. Perhaps
I ought to ask Mr Wilson what he regards as his most positive
(Mr Wilson) I think it is the identification of core
stock. One cannot just look at disposals in isolation. What one
has to look to, to get sorted out, are the short-term, medium-term
and long-term requirements in order to identify the core stock,
to make sure that we spend our refurbishment money only on that
stock which we are going to require in the medium and long term,
and to make sure that we dispose of the property which we do not
intend to retain as core. In that case, as has been explained
earlier, we do not suffer the full cost of the refurbishment of
the property; all we are required to do in that eventuality is
to pay dilapidations to Annington Homes. I believe that the uncertainties
associated with the Strategic Defence Review are beginning to
sort themselves out. There is an increasing acceptance, as I go
round the country talking to Commands and Station Commanders,
that it is in their own interest and the interest of their soldiers
to focus on the core stock in that way and not to spend money
on stock which will not form part of our long-term core. I believe
we have made huge progress on that in the last year.
108. The Report seems to make clear on page
45, in 4.11 and 4.12, that the local area housing officer knows
a lot less about what is happening down the road than an office
hundreds of miles away where personnel are being transferred to.
(Mr Tebbit) That is another positive change, I think.
There is an understandable reluctance to expect people to give
notice to the place they are leaving until they have got their
families sorted out, education and things like that in their new
location. What we are doing about that is to make sure that the
two bits of the Housing Executive stay in contact; that the bit
where, as it were, the man is hoping to go to gets in touch with
the place he is leaving and says, "By the way, X is thinking
of moving", so that link is now established.
109. Do you not think that that is an amazingly
clumsy way of doing it? I would have thought the basic way is
for the personnel who are doing the redeployment, who may be in
an office next to the area Housing Executive manager, to nip through
and tell them, and not go 200 miles away.
(Mr Tebbit) They also do that. There are two systems.
One is obviously relying on the individual. we need to make sure
that the individual is linked up to the place he is going to,
as well as the place he is living. The other is the notices given
by the Services themselves of unit moves or individual moves.
Unit moves are quite easy because there is a plan. For so-called
trickle posting, as it is called, there is a requirement to notify.
We have work under way to try and improve the systems for doing
110. When did the requirement come in?
(Mr Tebbit) There has always been a requirement to
do so, but it takes time.
111. There has always been a requirement. "Service
personnel usually receive three months' notice of a posting. They
apply almost immediately to the appropriate office", 200
miles away or wherever, "the area managers are concerned
they often receive little notice of an individual's posting out
of their area."
(Air Marshal Pledger) Could I say, there is a slight
misunderstanding here. The Personnel Management Authority who
post these people is not next door, it is actually in Innsworth
or elsewhere, it is a centralised process. Of course, everyone
who is posted and gets a posting instruction may not necessarily
be occupying one of these married quarters. It is pointless sending
every posting instruction to DHE because they do not know whether
or not they are required to move from a quarter. There is no point
in doing it that way, that would just deluge them in paperwork
that they do not know the consequences of.
112. Pretty comprehensive details of the person
would be on a card so you are not moving a pilot up North when
you only need a mechanic.
(Air Marshal Pledger) When Joe Bloggs is posted from
station A to station B, I can send that information to DHE, but
he may not be occupying married quarters. What is the purpose
of sending that material to DHE?
113. We have that record, presumably, of where
he is livingwe would not want him to be living in Moscowwe
will have a record that he is living on the base or off the base
and in what type of housing.
(Air Marshal Pledger) DHE will not.
114. That is because they have not been given
one. We are talking about the people who are doing the posting,
which is personnel.
(Air Marshal Pledger) The people doing the posting
are in Innsworth, they are not the admin. people in the local
115. They might not be, but it would be very
easy for them to check the records of where somebody is and make
sure the base knows and the executive knows that the person is
likely to move and likely to be vacating a property.
(Air Marshal Pledger) By all means. The most efficient
way of doing it is that those who apply somewhere else have a
connection back to the losing unit. That is the most efficient
way of doing it.
116. That is where we have really failed.
(Air Marshal Pledger) We now have it, we have established
it, we have taken the recommendation and actioned it, but actioned
it in a way that I believe is the most efficient way of recognising
the need for that movement rather than going through the process.
117. You are Joe Bloggs. What does your Joe
Bloggs do now?
(Air Marshal Pledger) When he is being posted from
A to B he will apply to the new DHE region if he wants a house
there. Immediately on receipt of that application, they will tell
the losing area, so they know that Joe Bloggs is going to move
out on a certain date. Both sides are fully informed so far as
housing deployments are concerned.
118. Joe Bloggs is applying 200 miles away,
same as ever, three months' notice.
(Air Marshal Pledger) The gaining unit at Bthe
DHE region who provides housing in that locationwill receive
from Joe Bloggs a bid for a married quarter at B. On receipt of
that bid, which is his notification "I want a new married
quarters", they will immediately inform the losing region
and, therefore, both ends of the equation are tied up at the same
119. That must have taken a lot of thought.
(Air Marshal Pledger) No, no.
(Mr Tebbit) This should have happened before.